Coming off a brutal 2018 season that saw the Central Michigan Chippewas go 1-11, the 2019 season began on a much more positive note as the Chippewas took the field against FCS opponent Albany and earned the first win of the Jim McElwain era, 38-21. But the going will get considerably tougher this weekend on the road against Wisconsin.
The Chippewas were led by graduate transfer quarterback Quinten Dormady, who had 27 completions on 37 attempts for 285 yards and three touchdowns. Said McElwain of the Chippewas' opening win: "We had some good performances, and yet we're going to have a lot better performances." With a trip to Madison, Wis., in Week 2 of the 2019 season, McElwain's prediction is going to be put to the test.
Wisconsin also comes into this game 1-0, routing South Florida 49-0 in the season opener for both teams. Jonathan Taylor had a strong start to the 2019 season, running for 135 yards and accounting for four TDs for the Badgers. The Badgers defense forced three turnovers, one of which was a fumble returned for a touchdown, and they limited the Bulls to only 157 yards of total offense.
Central Michigan at Wisconsin
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 7 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: The Big Ten Network
Spread: Wisconsin -33.5
When Central Michigan Has the Ball
In the season opener against Albany, Central Michigan used a variety of looks and formations, alternating between spread and pro-style looks. QB Quinten Dormady had a strong game, but so did Chippewas running back Jonathan Ward, who ran for 158 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns. Unfortunately for both Dormady and Ward, they each suffered two fumbles against Albany, although the Chippewas were able to overcome those mistakes against the Great Danes. Central Michigan may not be so fortunate against Wisconsin. Against South Florida, Wisconsin was able to generate four sacks and five tackles for a loss, so the Chippewas will need to be much better with ball security against the Badgers. Even more daunting for Central Michigan is the fact that Wisconsin was able to limit South Florida to only 26 yards rushing.
When Wisconsin Has the Ball
Look for a steady diet of Jonathan Taylor behind a typically mammoth Wisconsin offensive line. Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan was also strong in the season opener, passing for 199 yards and two touchdowns and completing 19-of-26 attempts. Central Michigan was unable to get any sacks versus Albany but did collect six tackles for a loss while limiting Albany to only 244 yards of total offense and forcing a fumble. But the Chippewas may discover that an offense that is as talented as Wisconsin's is another matter entirely. Taylor should be able to have another strong day against Central Michigan's defense.
McElwain has Central Michigan pointed in the right direction, as the 38 points scored by the Chippewas against Albany are their highest point total since November 2017. McElwain has built his career at smaller programs, and he knows what it will take to get Central Michigan back into contention for a MAC championship. At this point, Wisconsin has just too much depth and talent for the Chippewas to stay close. Wisconsin was impressive on the road at South Florida, and this home opener against Central Michigan should be a dominating win by the Badgers in this first-ever meeting between the two programs.